hd, beyond hd

The High Definition Television, HDTV, system was developed in the 1980s. It uses greater number of lines and wide-screen format, providing a significantly clearer picture than the traditional 525 and 625 line television screens. Each line in HDTV also contains more information than normal formats. HDTV is transmitted using digital technology. While we gush over the gorgeous resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p) that true HD offers, Japan’s NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) has been testing a new format called the Super Hi-vision, or Ultra High Definition Television (UHDTV), which offers 16 times the pixel resolution – an eye-popping 7680 x 4320 (4320)!

Visually, there’s little here in the way of enhanced experiences, though – it’s effectively the same old HD, just really, really big. What does make a difference is the audio. Where we rejoice with 7.1 channels, viewers of UHD content will be treated to glorious 22.2-channel audio – 24 speakers, arranged in three layers: ten at ear level, nine above three below and two low frequency effects.

Even NHK admits that the technology is experimental and it’ll most likely be a decade, perhaps longer, before we see such resolutions in auditoriums, and much longer for living rooms. Firstly, because…well, think about it: at 2000p, movies are crisp and impeccable on large movie screens, and even that’s a novelty; it’ll be a long while before HD becomes “boring old standard definition”. Secondly there’s the matter of storage. Each minute of uncompressed UHD video takes up a 195 Gigabytes, so a two-hour movie will occupy a gargantuan 25 Terabytes! Even the best compression will result in a movie that’s a couple of terabytes in size.

Where are we going to put it all?


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